Good Day Utah


Brian Head Fire grows to nearly 1,000 acres; one home destroyed

Posted at 9:21 AM, Jun 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-19 16:13:57-04

BRIAN HEAD, Utah - A human-caused wildfire northeast of the resort town of Brian Head grew to over a thousand acres Sunday morning with no containment, fire managers said.

Three cabins have now been damaged and one destroyed in Brian Head due to a wildfire that has been growing since Saturday afternoon.

So far the fire has burnt more than 1,000 acres. The entire Brian Head community has been evacuated. About 15 hundred structures are threatened.

Tankers could be seen flying constantly back and forth Sunday, reloading at the Cedar City Regional Airport, then dumping retardant across Brian Head, up to 3,000 gallons per trip.

"I consider it the first line of defense when it comes to wildfire, without the retardant the men and women in the field will have a tough time trying to battle the fire here today," said Norman Allen with the Cedar City Regional Airport.

An estimated 750 residents and visitors were evacuated due to the wildfire. More than 1,000 cabins are in jeopardy.

"I'm assuming $2 million, $3 million dollar cabins, they're mansions, and some of those really expensive ones are threatened," said Bret Howser, Brian Head Town Manager.

Clayton Calloway owns a home and business in Brian Head.

"You run in, you take a few pictures, you grab what you think is important and off you go," said Calloway.

Calloway said watching the flames is a helpless feeling.

"I keep calling and asking what can I do? What can I do? Everybody keeps saying there is nothing you can do just stay out of the way and let us do our job," said Calloway.

Then there is Brian Head's first family, the Hartlmaiers, who have operated Georg's Ski Shop since 1965. They actually live right upstairs.

"We've been worried about this for years and years and years, the bark beetle kills, the dead lumber around Brian Head, we knew that this was a risk and yesterday proved that it could happen," said Hartlmaier.

Hartlmaier said he was the first to call 911. He said the fire started as a controlled burn at a neighbors house that quickly got out of control.

"At first I thought it was a roof that was on fire which was quite shocking but as I drove a little bit further I noticed it was a slash pile that had gotten far, far, too big," said Hartlmaier.

Hartlmaier said everything his family cares about is right here in Brian Head. They aren't leaving. They have faith everything is going to be alright.

"The visuals of the planes fighting this yesterday, the amount of firemen that have come into this community, it feels good," said Hartlmaier.

On Sunday FEMA did authorize the use of federal money to help fight this fire.

Utah Fire Info tweeted an update at 8:40 p.m. Sunday.

One home has been destroyed, another has been damaged, and an untold number of structures are considered "threatened" by the fire.

Utah Fire Info tweeted that the Brian Head Marshal's Office is escorting residents into Brian Head to get items considered to be urgent.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Brian Head fire on Sunday.

According to a news release from its Denver office, the authorization makes FEMA funding available to pay 75 percent of the state's eligible firefighting costs, but the funding doesn't provide assistance to individual home or business owners.

The same release stated at the time of the request for federal funds, 75 homes and 25 businesses were immediately threatened as well as infrastructure including 1500 buildings.

The Parowan Valley watershed is also threatened, according to a press release from Dixie National Forest and the U.S. Forest Service.

Brian Head Fire

Brian Head Fire. June 17, 2017

The entire town of Brian Head remains under an evacuation order.  Approximately 750 people have fled the town.  Of those 750, only around 100 are permanent residents, officials said.

No injuries have been reported.

Helicopters and planes are dropping water and fire retardant around the perimeter while ground crews are attempting to construct a fireline where they can safely do so, the press release said.

"The challenges we have with this fire is it is in timber high elevation, with high elevation you know some of our helicopters they can't exactly hold all the water that they need, difficult to keep airborne; also there are challenges with retardant because the canopy is really thick as far as getting it to the ground," said Bode Mecham with the Dixie National Forest.

Incident managers told Fox 13's Robert Boyd they hope to have 10-percent containment by the end of the day.

Highway 143 is closed at Second Left Hand Canyon Road to the junction of Highway 148 near Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Updates from the U.S. Forest Service are posted here.